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Friday, September 4, 2015

Susan Ivanova on Aliens & Chamber Pots

Anyone who has ever traveled, and suffered disturbed sleep patterns as a result, can understand what the people in Neal Barrett, Jr's novel are going through. In The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name, something is inflicting nightmares upon everyone aboard the space station. And I do mean everyone: all 250,000 inhabitants of the great Babylon 5 station, the universe's best hope for peace.

The nightmares, and consequent lack-of-sleep, don't create a lot of peace on the space station. Quite the reverse. All our little demons--the things about others that bother us, all our fears of suffering pain, loss, and failing those we care about--that we push to the back of our minds when we're properly rested, now force their ugly selves to the forefront. No one proves immune to these disturbing nightmares, and consequent sleepless nights. Not even the beautiful and resourceful Susan Ivanova. 

Actress Claudia Christian as Commander Susan Ivanova

For all her wit, charm, and understanding of human frailties, she suffers from her own inner demons. Chief among these are her mother's death, caused by the powerful drugs forced upon her when she refused to join Psi Corps. More than most, she knows the intimacy afforded those with telepathic abilities. So in the episode "Eyes," when Harriman Gray, a PsiCorps telepath, arrives on Babylon 5, she tells him in no uncertain terms that if he dares to peer inside her mind, she will relieve his body of his head, and use the unnecessary article for her chamber pot. 

Did I mention that she could be resourceful? I mean, using someone's head for a chamber pot. Not a lot of people would think of doing that!

So, in The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name, when she learns that a Centauri youth has been kidnapped by a group of aliens known as Live Eaters, she heads down to their quarters to interrupt their Feast & Dissolution Ceremony. There she informs the giant squid people, in no uncertain terms, that no matter how intolerable they find living in close proximity with other lifeforms, that doesn't give them the right to eat them. 

So the young Centauri male remains locked in his capsule, while Susan Ivanova is forced to watch the Live Eaters commit suicide by...well, I'll give you one guess how they end their existence. It's not a pretty thing to watch, but then, at least she's saved the Centauri male's life. That's a worthwhile act.

It's easy to let life get on top of us, especially when we're tired. And no matter how hard we try, there will always be some people who refuse to draw close to us, to allow us into their hearts, and truly befriend us. We all know how heartbreaking it can be to desperately want to break down another's walls, only for them to refuse all our best efforts. But no matter how similar we appear to others, no matter how closely we're linked by ties of family, career, or society, we're all aliens to each other. It's up to us to get over our fears, and the knowledge that some people will always refuse to really live in harmony with us. It's our duty to emulate Susan Ivanova, to stand up for our rights, to fight for the rights of others, and never to give in to fears and seemingly hopeless situations. 

As for repurposing other people's body parts to perform household tasks, particularly in the smallest room in your house, I'll let you make up your own mind about that. Personally, I prefer the modern toilet to the outdated chamber pot. But then, when I have to call out the plumber, and wonder how horrendously he's going to bill me for his services...

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
Another Welcome Return to Babylon 5 

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